Dear Efe, Why Do People Cheat?

Why Do  People Cheat? Statistics show that someone either has cheated, is currently cheating, or will cheat in 80% of all relationships. The numbers have increased exponentially in the last 10 years and the research points to social media and technology as the new enablers. Historically, men cheat more than women but even this has…


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Why Do  People Cheat?

Statistics show that someone either has cheated, is currently cheating, or will cheat in 80% of all relationships. The numbers have increased exponentially in the last 10 years and the research points to social media and technology as the new enablers. Historically, men cheat more than women but even this has a twist to it as men are mostly not cheating with themselves but with women. It is interesting to note that while women are largely victims to unfaithful partners, in relation to the general population, women are more involved in infidelity than men (unfaithful women in relationships + single women who are happy to be side chicks, FwB, prostitutes, etc).

Some argue that is it poetic justice that women are statistically more likely to be victims of unfaithfulness because women enable to be unfaithful to their partners.

Cheating can be described as a romantic and/or sexual relationship, sometimes one of brief duration, between two people who aren’t committed (fully) to each other but where at least one person is already committed to somebody else.


Cheating could be divided into three parts:

  1. The dishonesty,
  2. The outside relationship,
  3. The sexual infidelity and/or emotional infidelity (i.e., affair of the heart)

All 3 parts differ in their degrees and their levels. Each part exists on a continuum.


The following conditions have been found to have strong correlation with infidelity

Psychological trauma

Persons (male and female) who suffered one form of sexual abuse in their pre-adult life. Within this group two extremes are identified – highly promiscuous and asexual. The highly promiscuous will have multiple partners and engage in very risky sexual behaviour. The asexual will be completely turned off from sex. In the highly promiscuous group you will find male and female genders in about equal proportions. In the asexual group, you will find more female than male.


Men who are powerful they think they can get whatever they want and thus cheat.

Men who are with women that are powerful are said to cheat because they don’t have as much power in the relationship.

So it begs the question, which is it? Men who are powerful cheat or men who aren’t powerful cheat?

Men who are wealthy are described as cheaters because they feel there is a price for anything, thus they can buy what and who they want. Then how does one explain the fact that poor men cheat, too?

Research does say power/wealth has a strong attraction and that when one responds to such an attraction it is very likely that you will either be a victim of infidelity or be an enabler of infidelity. We could document a million reasons to rationalize infidelity but what about our ability to make the ‘right’ choice?

What about the notion of choosing to not cheat in spite of power, wealth or psychological trauma?

One could argue that external factors (wealth, power, psychological trauma, etc) offer a reason why those who cheat do what they do and rather than taking ownership of their own behaviour, they can blame something out of their control.

Some myths about cheating:

Myth #1: If you are a beautiful and sexy woman, or a handsome well-built man, your partner will not cheat on you.

The level of attractiveness of a man or a woman in and of itself is not an indicator of whether or not they will be cheated on.

Myth #2: If you are having sex with your partner with frequency, your partner will definitely not cheat on you, if you rarely have sex with your partner, then your partner is definitely going to cheat on you.

There are couples with active sex lives yet there is still cheating going on, whereas for other couples, there isn’t cheating taking place. I have seen couples that rarely have sex yet there is no cheating, and for others there is.

Not having frequent sex with your partner isn’t a guarantee of they will cheat, although do note that it is a warning sign that may lead to cheating and you would be foolish to ignore it.

Myth #3: Cheating cannot be prevented.

While it is near impossible to prevent a partner determined to cheat from cheating, there are conditions which enable cheating. Your ability to minimize these conditions either through dialogue or boundaries may go a long way to minimize your exposure to the possibility of infidelity.

  • Lack of Attention

The most common reason reported by men and women for cheating is that they do not feel attended to. Lack of attention goes hand in hand with a lack of feeling appreciated. This longing and void leads a person to desire the feeling of attentiveness, appreciation and in essence, feeling valued and wanted. Lack of attention is the number one reason among women for cheating.

  • People Cheat Because They Make The Choice To Cheat

When a person doesn’t feel their partner is paying attention, it makes a person feel unwanted and sad and bad about their own value and self-worth.

There are many ways in which one can pay attention to one’s partner. Some examples of paying attention include: communication, being present, compassionate, hearing your partner’s voice, empathetic, physically affectionate, nurturing, showing active consistent interest, patient, and sexual relations.

Humans long for connection. Without attention from one’s partners, one feels disconnected, which leads to feeling de-valued and un-heard. This in turn leads some to find this important human need elsewhere.

Some people go out looking for (find) someone to cheat with; for many, infidelity isn’t searched for. The most common scenario where men and women that have cheated state that they didn’t plan to cheat, it “just happened.” Then after it just happened once, they found themselves continuing with the cheating relationship/relationships. Although the person didn’t plan to cheat, they had a choice.

How does lack of attention lead to infidelity just happening? Imagine in the work place a male colleague who notices and compliments his female colleague on her looks and appearance where she isn’t getting similar attention from her boyfriend or husband, over time emotional bond may form. Or a female colleague or friend who listens to your boyfriend or husband without judging him the way you do him. In both cases, an emotional and sexual bond may form, thus making sex the big elephant in the room to be consummated.

Frequently Asked Question

Q: If the #1 reason why people cheat is because their partner isn’t paying attention to them, then why do some people cheat when they aren’t receiving attention from their partner and others don’t?

A: There are those people that no matter what the circumstances are in their relationship, they will not cheat.

Making a choice to use an external solution (cheating) for an internal problem (lack of attention, disconnection, etc) isn’t in some people’s decision-making book of life of choice.

Cheating is external, meaning it is using something outside of one’s self/relationship to fill an internal void. If there is something that is a problem internally, this means that the problem is within one’s self and/or the problem is within one’s relationship.

Habits that indicate a high potential to cheat:

Those who externalize – when issues occur in a relationship, a person that typically seeks out unhealthy external options that masks, doesn’t attend to, doesn’t address, and doesn’t resolve the internal pain or the problem itself as an “externalizer.” Typically, this style of coping with life’s challenges is a developed behaviour over time that started at a younger age. This behaviour is usually applied in other areas of life as a coping mechanism.

Those who do not take ownership – A person who typically doesn’t take ownership of his or her own actions and blames others instead.

Those with no empathy –A person who isn’t remorseful or shows no empathy towards others. The emotional contract between them and their partner mean nothing.

Those who are secretive and/or tell lies – a person who lies, is likely to steal. A person who steals, is most likely a liar. A person who lies is more likely to cheat and vice versa.

Those who party and live on the wild side – the constant party animal type who often uses alcohol and/or drugs in socializing with others is likely to cheat as these are sexual enablers. This doesn’t mean that the person who doesn’t drink or uses drugs is a non-cheater either. Just pointing out that a party animal engages in by far more activities that reduce inhibitions and sound judgement.

If a man or a woman spends more time partying with others and thus less on focusing on the journey of relationship enhancement, less on coming home to be with their partner but rather out partying with friends, this person is more likely to cheat than not cheat.

Ultimately, the power not to be unfaithful in a relationship lies within control of us all. However, like we learn and develop the power to be good at certain things like accounting, cooking, swimming, etc, those with more power for self-control (achieved either through religion, self-discipline, upbringing, etc) will exercise more restraint and make a decision not to cheat.

And there are those who have never considered being faithful. To be unfaithful requires little effort hence they have never challenged themselves or been in a situation where they have to make a conscious choice about infidelity.

Then there are those who challenge the notion of being faithful.

In summary, there isn’t a perfect answer for why people cheat.

Why do people cheat?

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section.




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  1. tobi
    This is too funny—>>.Historically, men cheat more than women but even this has a twist to it as men are mostly not cheating with themselves but with women.
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